Faces of HR

Faces of HR: Heidi Burton in Harmony with Growth at Stinson LLP

Heidi Burton isn’t your average HR leader. She’s a strategist, a sculptor of talent, and the mastermind behind Stinson LLP‘s thriving HR landscape. As chief HR officer, she works together with firm leadership to identify the needs that fuel growth. But her vision extends far beyond simply filling roles. Her mission? To cultivate a culture in which exceptional client service and employee advancement go hand in hand.

Heidi Burton

Through Burton’s expertise, best practices are implemented, and targeted training programs are born. Efficiency soars as skill sets are sharpened, leadership capabilities are strengthened, and the overall health of the firm thrives.

Burton’s journey to becoming an HR mastermind began in college. With a keen eye for both business and people, she gravitated toward HR management and services, a field that perfectly captured her desire to create positive impact. Over 25 years later, her passion remains undimmed.

Ultimately, Burton’s story is a testament to the power of strategic HR leadership. It’s about fostering an environment not only where employees excel but also where their success fuels the success of the entire firm. And that, in the world of competitive legal services, is a strategy worth celebrating.

In our latest Faces, meet Heidi Burton.

Who is/was your biggest influence in the industry?

Early in my career, I had the benefit of working with two highly skilled women leaders in HR. One taught me the importance of effective listening and communication skills, good ethics, and empathy. The other taught me the art of navigating the gray areas, when to lead and when to empower others to lead, and how to create a vision and strategy. I couldn’t have asked for better HR mentors: one focused on leading people and the other on business acumen.

What’s your best mistake, and what did you learn from it?

One of the most important career lessons I’ve learned was to lead with trust. I used to believe trust was earned, not given. Throughout my career, I have found that extending trust first has led to respect and created goodwill in my working relationships.

What’s your favorite part about working in the industry? What’s your least favorite part, and how would you change it?

My favorite part about working in the industry is developing leaders and their mindsets. My job is to help them understand “why” their leadership role is important, impactful, and influential. This understanding helps foster extraordinary business results through motivated and engaged employees.  

While necessary, enforcing disciplinary action is my least favorite part about working in the industry. My approach has shifted over the course of my career. Through effective communication and clear expectations, I have placed the decision-making power back into the hands of the employee.

It sounds like, through your experience, you really care about people, and you want to help them feel safe and comfortable, which is important in the industry. Please elaborate here.

I went into HR because an employee’s physical and psychological safety in the workplace is extremely important to me. I have found leading first with curiosity and appreciative inquiry helps create a welcoming environment and encourages growth, well-being, and inclusion.

How can HR most effectively demonstrate its value to the leadership team?

HR should be a strategic partner, embrace and help lead through change, use technology to deliver innovative and cost-effective solutions, and ask for real-time feedback to identify areas of growth and importance.

Where do you see the industry heading in 5 years? Or are you seeing any current trends?

Currently, we’re focused on employee well-being resources; diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives; hybrid and remote work policies; change management; upskilling; and talent attraction and retention.

One of the biggest changes businesses and HR professionals will have to manage in the next 5 years is the adoption of new artificial intelligence (AI) technologies. Within the HR field, possible applications include recruiting, hiring, onboarding, employee engagement, performance reviews, analytics, and training and development. To effectively leverage these AI tools, we will need employee buy-in. HR professionals should work closely with leadership to manage risk, protect data, and eliminate bias.

What are you most proud of?

As I reflect on my career in HR, I’m most proud of my ability to lead and adapt through times of uncertainty and change. The pandemic was really a test of these skills for me and other HR professionals. Even though there was no playbook for COVID-19, the lessons I learned throughout my career still applied, and we were able to make choices that made sense for our people and our business. It was a unique, challenging, important experience that drove home the importance of establishing trust with your people.

Do you have any advice for people entering the profession?

Whether you’re a new grad or changing careers, you should perform industry research, meet with industry experts to understand current needs, pay attention to trends, and seek feedback from employees to help your organization stay competitive.

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